Turkey 'cracking down' on press freedom

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accused of publicly denigrating journalists

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An international media watchdog group has accused Turkey of waging "one of the world's biggest anti-press campaigns in recent history".

The Committee to Protect Journalists says it has identified 61 journalists imprisoned because of their work - more than in any other country in the world.

Those detained face charges including terrorism and denigrating Turkishness.

Turkey claims most of the detainees are being held for crimes that have nothing to do with journalism.

It described that CPJ's claims as exaggerated.

But the organisation's director, Joel Simon, said Turkey's tendency to equate critical journalism with terrorism was not justified by its security concerns.

About 70% of Turkish journalists being held are Kurdish, an ethnic minority which has been seeking self-rule in areas of the south and east of the country.

"Turkish authorities conflate support for the Kurdish cause with terrorism itself," the CPJ says.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in a 30-year conflict between the PKK rebels and the Turkish state.

Self-censorship

The CPJ also warned that the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used various forms of pressure to engender a culture of self-censorship in the press.

It said that Mr Erdogan has publicly deprecated journalists, urged media outlets to discipline or fire critical staff members, and filed numerous high-profile defamation lawsuits.

Among the cases highlighted in the report are those of two prominent investigative reporters, Ahmet Sık and Nedim Sener, who were detained for more than year while on trial, accused of involvement in a plot against the government.

The two journalists told the CPJ they had both published or were writing books about sensitive topics, including the murder of the prominent journalist Hrant Dink.

But they have denied the charges that they were aiding the Ergenekon, a secret organisation led by senior Turkish military officers, which has been accused of trying to overthrow the government.

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